TITLE: Battlefield Believers
By Michael Aubrecht
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The Civil War will convey the concept of "brother against brother" and that there are no "real" winners in civil war.
The Revolutionary War will convey the ills of "pride and arrogance" as that was the only way a group of shabby colonists could defeat the most powerful army in the world.
The fall of the Roman army will convey man's greed for more land and how a conquering nation can be conquered.
Battlefield Believers - working title DRAFT (Format: Christian-Historical-Fiction)
By Michael Aubrecht, Illustrations by Vicki Talley McCollum - Copyright 2005
It was early on Sunday, in the spring of 1864, and all around were signs of God's glorious Creation. Daybreak had just begun, and the sun was slowly peeking over the horizon. As it ascended, the vast landscape of sleeping clouds appeared to catch fire and the midnight blue evening was painted over by a brilliant orange glow. A gentle breeze stirred the miles of tall grass covering the fields beneath and a symphony of birds softly echoed through the trees.
On the surrounding hills, shadows awoke from their twilight slumber and began to stretch their limbs in acknowledgment of the recurring day. It was a beautiful recital that had been performed over and over since the beginning of time. It was the sort of day that made you feel good just to be alive - and even better to be dead.
Below in the valley, two armies were also just beginning to stir. Many soldiers however, did not share nature's sentiments in welcoming back another sunrise. Exhausted, homesick and terribly traumatized by the horrors they had witnessed on the battlefield, the promise of another day was nothing more than prolonged suffering. After all, weeks had turned into months, months had turned into years, and no end appeared in sight. Many felt as if they had been on campaign forever. Most were only been able to find a sense of peace and comfort while sleeping. That is, when they actually could sleep.
Enlisting under the guise of heroism, few had ever expected to be away from their families this long and none could have predicted the hardships they would experience. Although they were thankful for their lives, many looked upon their fallen comrades with a sense of envy as they were finally at rest in a much better place. For these reluctant survivors, time appeared to stand still.
Looking more dead than alive, they were now faded memories of the vibrant men they had once been. Long gone was the patriotism and thrill of recruitment parades and brand new uniforms. No longer were they believers in the promise of adventure or the romance of war. For those who had gone off to serve, the only truth that remained was "to kill or be killed."
Emerging from their weathered tents, some struck fires as the smell of stale coffee began to permeate the air. The gentle sounds of the surrounding countryside gave way to the neighing of irritated horses and the clang of metal. As they began their daily rituals, muskets were inspected, swords were sheathed and once pristine jackets were pulled on over dirty white shirts and tattered suspenders.
On a high hill overlooking it all, stood a small grove of trees whose leaves were still dripping wet with the morning dew. Beneath them sat two figures quietly watching. They were soldiers too, angels who had served in the legions under the command of the Archangel Michael during the fall of Satan. Theirs was a story written before the dawn of man.
Recorded in the Bible, angels were formed long before the Creation and served in a variety of roles while executing God's will. The most powerful of these creatures was named Lucifer and he was honored above all other angels while sitting second only to Christ. His superiority proved to be his downfall after pride and jealousy led him to seek God's throne.
When God rejected him, he led other angels in a revolt for the Kingdom of Heaven. It was then that a great battle erupted between legions of good and bad angels. God's army emerged victorious, but at a great cost to their numbers.
After his defeat, Lucifer fell from God's grace and became known as Satan or the Devil. His sin also cost the eternities of thousands of angels, who became demons forever because of their choice to rebel. Those that remained loyal to the Lord, continued to serve His glory and sometimes traveled to Earth executing missions for the benefit of mankind.
These two observers stood among the ranks of God's loyal servants and as veterans of their own Civil War, each had grown to feel a kinship toward the armies they watched below. Both shared in the sadness of knowing that for most of these men, this would be their last sunrise.
One angel, named Jonas, was a strong, athletic looking creature with long dark hair. The other was named Elias, who appeared identical to his companion with the exception of blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Following their victory in Heaven, both were given the assignment of observing the wartime behaviors of man. Since then, they had witnessed countless battles and the victories and defeats of thousands.
Although uniforms and weapons had changed through the centuries, the results were always the same and both angels struggled to find a purpose in their mission. Today they were continuing their study in hopes of finally completing the task and moving on to their own eternities. This was the American Civil War and one of the worst they had ever seen.
As morning peaked, the angels detected movement in the camps below. Each sprang to attention, eager to conclude the day’s events. Suffering their own form of boredom and anxiety, Jonas and Elias had spent the night secluded in the hilltop orchard, hiding from the guards.
Over the last three years, they had watched as the South repelled their foe brilliantly, only to have the North persevere on their own ground. Both had sat on the bluffs overlooking the battlefields at Manassas, and Antietam. They had perched themselves on the stonewall at the sunken road in Fredericksburg and on a split-rail fence during Pickett's disastrous charge at Gettysburg. They had witnessed firsthand the bloody magnificence of bayonet charges and the stench of rotting bodies that later littered the battlefields.
Regardless of the cost, neither force was willing to surrender, thus the war continued to drag on and on.
Throughout the conflict, Jonas had sympathized with the southern army who were still a formidable force in his opinion. He admired their unwavering zeal and the commitment they had shown to the Confederate flag. Although he acknowledged the plague of slavery that some fought to protect, he firmly believed that many more in the ranks were defending their homeland against invasion.
Elias favored the northern forces and applauded their efforts to preserve the Union and free those who were held in bondage. The memory of Satan's rebellion weighed heavily on his mind and the Federal cause reminded him of his own service.
Spiritually, neither angel could argue that both of these armies shared the same faith, in the same God.
"They're waking up," said Jonas, "and so it begins again." Leaning forward, he shielded his eyes from the rising sun. His expression was one of remorse. Over the centuries, he had helplessly watched as thousands of soldiers began their morning ritual, only to see them ripped to pieces in the afternoon hours. It was a kind of predictable horror that would make the hearts of men numb, and the hearts of angels ache.
“This ground looks familiar,” replied Elias, “Have we been here before?” Turning away, he pointed across the valley to a shaded outcropping of rocks. “There,” he said. “Over there on that ridge.” Unsure, he stepped back in bewilderment. “These places all look to the same to me.”
Before he could continue, Jonas interrupted, “Yes, you are correct Elias. We were here, on this ground, in this very place.” Rising to his feet, Jonas turned to face his companion. “Remember long ago, when these trees were just saplings? It was another time, another war, and another fight for independence.”
Nodding, Elias began to recall the events of their first trip to the valley. Nearly one hundred years had passed since another rebellion led two armies to clash at this very spot. It was during the American Revolution, a conflict of epic proportions that later ended two centuries of British rule for most of the North American colonies. As they reminisced, Jonas continued to call to mind their experience.
“Remember when we first arrived,” he said, “how beautiful it was here?” “Yes,” answered Elias. “I remember thinking how could anyone choose to fight on such glorious soil.” He closed his eyes and the impression of that day began to form in his memory. He could see it all now, as if it only happened yesterday.
A large battery of cannons could be seen off in the distance. They were positioned on the high ground, not far from where they stood, and appeared to be manned by several soldiers in bright red uniforms. Small beams of sunlight reflected off the shiny buttons adorning the breasts of their well-tailored jackets. Unlike the tattered armies that dwelt below, these men appeared immaculate as if preparing for a parade. They were members of the Dragoons, an elite unit in the service of His Majesty’s Royal Army. Feared by many, they boasted a reputation as the most lethal of all English forces.
Camped in the hills just below the artillery was a large battalion of British infantry known as the Grenadiers. Unlike the squalor of their Continental foe, this army slept in comfortable shelters made of fine white canvas. At the rear of their position sat many wagons piled high with crates of supplies. Large banners bearing their King’s crest adorned the vast tent city and the aroma of fine food filled the air. Hunting dogs ran playfully around the camp’s cook and a group of elegantly dressed officers sat nearby playing cards and drinking wine. The sound of regimental music could be heard in the background as bagpipers and drummers rehearsed near a grove of trees. It was a scene of calm pleasantries that seemed terribly out of place in a war zone.
As a ruling power, British forces lived better than most and their generous lifestyle helped them to maintain high spirits when deployed. They were the best-trained, best-equipped and most invincible army of the time. As a result, many of their senior officers refused to take the rebel Colonists seriously. To them, these so-called “Minutemen” represented nothing more than an organized group of ungrateful peasants. Their arrogance would later prove to be their downfall.
A few miles away stood the camp of the Continental army who appeared in stark contrast to the well-kept Redcoats. Instead of tents, these soldiers rested their weary heads beneath make shift lean-tos and sheets of torn linen. Most wore disheveled uniforms of varying blue colors and some were missing their boots. Without medicine and unable to evacuate their wounded, many men wrapped themselves in bloody bandages. Some used makeshift crutches to move about the camp while others leaned against empty barrels. Lacking food, horses were now shot, quartered and boiled over an open fire. It was a desperate measure, but one necessary for survival.
Despite their dreadful appearance and lack of supplies, the Colonists still had faith. While the English had experienced little hardship, the “American” forces continued to persevere under the most excruciating of circumstances.
Ironically, it was through suffering that they were able to transform themselves from “peasants” into soldiers. Boys had become men. Men had become better men. And no one ever thought of abandoning the fight.
A newfound religious freedom gave them strength and inspired them to rise to any occasion. They prayed often, but not for themselves. Instead, they petitioned for the Lord’s blessing on the country they fought to create.
MORE TO COME
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